Pence reaffirms opposition to gender-affirming care for minors

Former Vice President Mike Pence. (Official White House photo by Myles Cullen)

In an emotional exchange Sept. 14 at a town hall in Des Moines, Iowa, former Vice President and 2024 Republican presidential candidate Mike Pence doubled down on his opposition to allowing minors to access gender-affirming health interventions.

Melissa McCollister, a social work professor at Grand View University, fought back tears as she explained that, “So far, in 2023, 15 transgender individuals and gender nonconforming people have been murdered,” most of whom were “Black and Latinx transgender women.”

“What is your policy plan,” she asked, fighting back tears, “to protect the transgender community, specifically Black and brown trans women, from historically high levels of violence?”

The question from McCollister — who identified herself as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and said she is raising a transgender child — came after Pence pledged to “protect our kids from that radical gender ideology that’s taken hold in too many public schools.”

“For me,” the former vice president responded, “what adults do in their lives, decisions that they make, including transgender adults, is one thing, but for kids under the age of 18 there’s a reason why we don’t let you drive ’til you’re 16.”

He continued, “In the state of Indiana, you can’t get a tattoo until after you’re 18, you can’t drink until after you’re 21, that’s because we understand that kids don’t fully understand the consequences of their actions.

“When it comes to surgical or chemical procedures,” Pence continued, “I just, I really believe that we’ve got to protect our kids from decisions that will affect them, the balance of their lives, while at the same time saying adults can make decisions according to the dictates of their own conscience.”

Despite these statements, gender surgeries are almost never performed on minors younger than 18 in the United States.

McCollister responded, “to hear somebody tell me that it’s not OK for young children to make decisions about their gender identity and to ask their school officials for support, protection and help, is appalling.”

FiveThirtyEight’s polling average puts Pence at 5.1%, exactly 50 points behind former President and current GOP frontrunner Donald Trump.

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